This inner-city farm is changing lives in an extraordinary way.
True
Stand Together

Bonton, a community in south Dallas, Texas, is probably the last place you'd think to start a farm.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms; Stand Together.

It feels like it's been abandoned by the rest of the city. 85% percent of the men who live in Bonton have been incarcerated. Many of its residents have a hard time finding work and making ends meet.


For many of Bonton's residents, fresh produce isn't a realistic expectation. Nearly two-thirds of the people who live there don't have reliable transportation. And the nearest grocery store, one that doesn't just sell processed food, takes three hours to get to and back from by bus. The neighborhood is pretty much the definition of a "food desert."

What's worse, the lack of fresh fruits, meats and vegetables has contributed to Bonton's skyrocketing disease rates. The men of Bonton don't live as long as the ones who live in the rest of Dallas. Rates of stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are double compared to the rest of the city. Child obesity is also a serious concern.

These are just links in a long chain of problems that a lack of opportunity has created.

Even though more than a million people live in Dallas, many don't know what's happening in Bonton. Daron Babcock was one of them.

Photo courtesy of Daron Babcock.

Seven years ago, Babcock says, he had "a normal career in business." Life was going as planned. But then one day Babcock had breakfast with a friend. That friend was working with a group of men from Bonton who had recently been released from prison and were trying to get back on track. If Babcock didn't have anything going on, his friend said, perhaps he might like to join him.

Going out to the neighborhood was a turning point for Babcock. Seeing Bonton's residents struggle was something he couldn't unsee. He'd never known what it was like to tread water like the people of Bonton have to, but he knew he had to help.

"What kind of person can you be, how do you live with yourself once you're aware?" says Babcock. "Just ignore and act like it didn't happen? I couldn't do that."

So he sold his home, left his career and moved into a house with no electricity.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

Because buying land in Bonton is difficult, Babcock made a deal with Habitat for Humanity: In exchange for a place to stay, he'd help keep a home secure that had recently been abandoned.

The neighbors didn't take to him at first; they didn't trust a man who didn't share their background. They took bets on what branch of law enforcement Babcock was in.

But Babcock didn't win anyone over with big promises or ideas. He became part of the neighborhood by admitting that he didn't have any answers.

"I just went to learn and build relationships, and so they were gracious in teaching me this stuff," he says.

What people wanted, says Babcock, were jobs. They wanted security, financial stability, a sense of ownership over their own lives. That's how the farm began.

It started with a community garden. Then Bonton's residents were given a gift of land to grow the garden bigger by Collins Concrete. When that happened, Babcock realized that Bonton Farms was doing much more than giving people access to fresh food. Working together provided the community members with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today, Bonton Farms is helping people eat healthy, start a new job, earn an income, spread their wings, and build a strong future for themselves and their community.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms; Stand Together.

Aside from the farm itself, Babcock has started multiple social enterprises which also employ people, and teach them what it takes to start their own businesses.

"One of the things we've learned in working with men coming out of prison, is we have a really broken country, where not everybody has equal opportunity," explains Babcock.

"It doesn't matter whether you're coming out of incarceration, or whether you're coming out of substance abuse, or a domestic violence shelter. You may no longer be beaten up, or being high, or locked up anymore, but you're also no more prepared to go out and flourish, than if you were."

Through continued social entrepreneurship, Bonton Farms addresses this adversity that people in Bonton face and helps build solutions in partnership with the community.

Bonton Farms has become a place where men and women can come when they need someone to walk alongside them while they're recovering and figuring out the path they'd like to take. It's a place where they can feel supported as they learn how to adjust to working.

Participants may not sit in a group and discusses their pasts, but wounds are healed and new connections are made through hard work and a shared commitment to creating a better life. And the proof is in the numbers: not one person has been re-incarcerated since beginning work at Bonton Farms or one of its related enterprises.

Babcock would like to see creative efforts like Bonton all across America. Stand Together is helping the community bring those dreams closer to a reality.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

The farm couldn't get by without help, and it's found an incredible partner in Stand Together, an organization that's helping break the cycle of poverty by supporting the country's most innovative social entrepreneurs. Thanks to Stand Together, they're able to scale their efforts in existing communities and other places that need it. The organization provides capital, business consulting, and connections to other resources to help these entrepreneurs' initiatives grow.

"One of the main things Stand Together has done is given us credibility," says Babcock. "Some of the greatest inventions come from somebody taking a chance on something that's never been done before."

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. That means supporting social entrepreneurs who're close to the problem and have developed creative solutions that are working.

"If we're going to change the status quo, if we're really going to disrupt the way things are, it's going to take new thinking that hasn't been done yet."

"New thinking" is helping Bonton Farms solve problems like poverty, hunger and joblessness. But it's the people that are truly changing the neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

It would be easy to just label Bonton Farms a success, praise the way it's solving community problems and call it a happy ending. But that's not how Babcock sees it. "There needs to be an understanding that the farm is the hub. It's the vehicle that allows us to do all this." he notes.

Sometimes, he explains, people get the idea that it's the farm work that's the catalyst for change. It's a beautiful story, but it isn't true. The real change comes from the people, the connections they're making, and the sense of hope that permeates the community when neighbors see each other flourishing.

"They see [others] doing better for themselves and for their family, [and think] that it's possible for them, too," says Babcock. "Ultimately, it's the people who took that challenge to fight for a better life that become the change agents for the rest of the neighborhood."

To get involved and find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.